Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What Should Be Done? Part 4

A commenter asked a question after the "Why Does St. Joachim Have To Go?" post. I wrote an answer, but couldn't get it to appear as a reply to the comment, so I'm putting it here as a new post. Here’s the question: assuming that the archbishop has a specific goal for the number of parishes the archdiocese should have, how should we get there, given the present situation? Or, "which closed parishes should be left open, which open ones should be closed, and which consolidations should have occurred in different permutations?" I’m going to take this question to mean "What should the archbishop do right now?"

I don’t have "one simple trick that lets you undo the damage the pastoral planners have done to your diocese." And much as I love the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, if I had the simple trick the first thing I’d do is send it to Bishop Lennon in Cleveland, a diocese that the planners have done great damage to. That operation was lead by one of the leading lights of the Conference on Pastoral Planning and Council Development, who appears now to be unemployed. If the pastoral planners could do what they claim, the Diocese of Cleveland would need a pastoral planner more than any other diocese. Not only is their former pastoral planner gone, but he has been replaced by no one. They do without the expertise of a CPPCD planner, and they are better off, although the damage done by their former pastoral planners remains, and festers. I wonder if Archbishop Chaput has spoken with Bishop Lennon and has heard whatever the bishop learned from having been through the CPPCD wringer.

This question assumes that I’m right about the Philadelphia pastoral planners. If I’m right, the planners are not just wrong, they’re way wrong. My post entitled "What's Behind the School Closing Campaign?" states what I think is wrong with the planners’ goals for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, with evidence. I analyze the evidence under four categories: 1) public choice economics; 2) the planners’ ideology; 3) class antagonisms; and 4) fixation on committees. To try to summarize that very long post I conclude that 1) one of the planners’ motives is to be in charge, to boss people around, "to make a difference"; 2) the planners’ ideology is the futureChurch/"Gather Faithfully Together" religion, not the Catholicism that that the popes have taught, not the religion whose tenets are stated in the Catechism ; 3) they represent the "Belmont" group in the class war described in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart; and 4) everything they do and want to do is pushed through committees, which interferes with the archbishop’s governance of the diocese, and, in fact, any kind of individual responsibility for anything. Their plans are not just bad, they’re real bad. We could be seriously injured by what they’re up to. Cleveland has been.

So how can what they’ve already done be fixed? There’s no short cut. I think that the Archbishop should find a priest, a holy priest, a wise priest and ask him to look at what’s been done, and think about it carefully. Some faithful Catholic priest who is not part of the process should look at everything carefully and see how bad it really is. Not a committee, one man. He should tell the archbishop whether the whole pastoral planning operation is an Emperor’s new clothes kind of thing, and whether the right thing to do is to accept the bad decisions this process came to or try to fix them. There’s no magic answer. Somebody should look hard at everything and see if fixing some of it is possible. I think it will be, and I also think that if somebody had done this for the diocese of Cleveland, they’d be a lot better off now. This isn’t easy, it’s hard, but I think it should be done, in justice for the parishes that have already been dealt with, and to prevent disaster for the rest of the archdiocese.

That investigator should look at everything the planners have done and see if there are any real injustices. Many people claim to have been lied to. They should have the opportunity to explain to him why they think that. He should try to figure out if it’s true or not. If lies were told regarding the process of closing some particular parish that should go on the injustice side of the ledger.

He should also decide if there is class based discrimination of the kind that Charles Murray writes about. I think it’s likely there is and that it would indicate an injustice that ought to be fixed. The fact that Frankford can support an Episcopalian church, but not a Catholic one certainly seems odd. The way Frankford and Holy Savior were treated seems to support the hypothesis.

He should look at everything, especially those places where people are complaining the most. I think people complaining is a good mark that something may be wrong, and lack of complaint may indicate that what was done can be left alone. I think he should look at everything, though, and consult people who actually are familiar with the facts. He should look at what the author of the Philadelphia Church Project website has written, but also try to talk with him and see what he thinks beyond that. He should also talk to the pastors involved, in confidence, to see if they know more than they’re saying in public because they don’t want to hurt the archdiocese with dissention. Even if they think what I think, there’s no good that would come of them speaking in public.

Another possible source of information would be employees of the archdiocese who know what was done, but establishing a secure channel of communication for them would not be easy.

Finally, what if he decides that some real injustices have been done and some parishes ought to be re-opened, and the archbishop agrees? There shouldn’t be immediate closures to make up for them. Getting to the archbishop’s desired number, if he has one, will have to be put off for five or ten years. A parish that was wrongly spared by the planners’ incompetence shouldn’t be closed now. Keeping those open, giving them a chance to survive if they can, would be worth it. Closing a parish to make up for the resurrection of one that was wrongly closed would just cause way too much animosity.

One reason this took so long to write is that it used to be longer. I had a longer description of the Frankford situation, and some specificity about what ought to be done there, but if I’m an expert on anything it’s the planners and their ideology. I don’t have special factual expertise about Frankford, so I took it out. I just want an unbiased person to look at all the facts and evaluate them fairly.

Another reason it took so long is that I looked again at the process and the criteria they claim to use. Here are some of the criteria. They look for "Active advisory councils, with recommendations put forth by the parish based on consultation with their Parish Pastoral Council, Parish Finance Council and Parishioners" and for "Trained, qualified and competent leaders in both paid staff and volunteer positions" and "Just compensation for employees." If they’re telling the truth, then if the pastor is not a good bureaucrat, and doesn’t do things they way they want, the way Dilbert’s boss does things, they punish the parishioners by closing the parish. And who is the "they"? Who are the actual decision makers? Well, that’s secret, too. What’s clear is that the committee that supposedly makes the decisions is too big to make any decisions. Somebody runs it, but it’s very important that we not know who. Here’s the committee: "Regional Bishop and the Dean for the area under study, Coordinator of Archdiocese Planning Initiatives, Monsignor Arthur E. Rodgers; Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, Monsignor Daniel J. Kutys; Chancellor, Monsignor Gerard C. Mesure; Vicar for Clergy, Monsignor Daniel J. Sullivan; Office for Black Catholics William Bradley; Office for Catholic Education, Jacqueline Coccia; Office for Communications, Ken Gavin; Office for Cultural Diversity, Reverend A. Bruce Lewandowski; Office for Parish Services and Support, Marc Fisher; Office for Parish Services and Support, Bob Miller; Office for Stewardship and Development, Sarah Hanley; Office for Real Estate Services, Deacon Thomas Croke; Office for Secretary for Temporal Services, Jim Bock." that’s quite a bureaucratic lineup. I’m pretty sure that if the committee did any real work they wouldn’t let somebody from the Office for Communications be on it. With that list of people nominally responsible for this disaster, it’s going to be quite difficult for anybody to say that "mistakes were made" but really big mistakes were made and at sometime the archdiocese has to realize that, and the truth is, the sooner the better.

This process has done a lot of damage. The longer an honest examination is put off, the worse it will be for the archdiocese.

Anyway, I'm very grateful for the question. This is what I wanted to write in my "What Should Be Done?" series of posts and which I couldn’t quite get myself to do. I didn’t want to face how bad things were and how hard they would be to fix. Your comment made me do it. Like I said, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t wait around for this answer, but I’m glad I wrote it.


  1. Me again. Thanks for posting, I appreciate you laying out, both here and in your link from February, your concerns, and in particular that you take issue less with any one closing or consolidation (though some you clearly object to) and rather to the nature of the --process-- as a whole.

    I generally concur with your assessment of the four issues, although my attitude is not as Chicken Little as yours, more of a when-you-get-lemons-make-lemonade take. I have one point to add. I think you considerably underestimate the Archbishop's awareness of the pitfalls of the four issues, at least in general. No doubt some of the nuances of the Phila situation will escape him. But from my sources from his Denver stomping grounds, he is pretty sharp when it comes to recognizing ecclesial traps such as those.

    1. No doubt about it, I'm Chicken Little here, and I do think that this whole process is a disaster in the making. The target parishes feel like they're the victims in a class war, and I think the circumstantial evidence evidence supports the conclusion. The process was very destructive in Cleveland, and unless the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is very much worse off than any other large, old Northern diocese, the pastoral planners have gone nuclear unnecessarily. I'd love to be talked out of this conclusion, but I think things are bad and getting worse.

  2. Feel free to delete this if it is not appropriate here. Peter Borre, our canon law consultant, from Boston is coming to talk to us about our St. Joachim Appeal, recent developments in Rome and the future of the Archdiocese in Phila. on Thursday, Oct. 24, 6:00 PM at St. Mark's Church, 4442 Frankford Ave., 19124 All are welcome, especially any parishes threatened by the planning process.

    1. That's right on my topic and very appropriate here. I should put together a new post with new developments including this one. I'm glad you're reading and feel free to put any announcement here you think is at all relevant.